Somervell Park, Cambuslang
Cambuslang Rangers v Larkhall Thistle
McBookie.com Super First Division
After an enforced layoff since the middle of November last year, Thistle returned to league business at a bitterly cold Cambuslang. The Jags were hoping for some New Year cheer at their high-flying rivals – having slumped to third bottom with only seven points taken from their nine games so far.
The loss of Billy Robb at the centre of deence was a big blow to Thistle’s hopes of taking anything from the game but Liam Mushett wasn’t the only one who looked rusty after the long break. Craig Forbes started at right back in a new look formation but it left the Jags short in midfield and meant little in the way of creativity and chances being created.
After a scrappy opening period, Cambuslang began to take control of the game but it was Larkhall who could have taken the lead in the 16th minute when a corner found Graham Gracie six yards out but his shot was blocked by a defender. Gracie appeared to have been earmarked as the danger man as he found himself with two or three markers every time he got the ball.
Cambuslang could have taken the lead themselves just a minute later but the centre half’s header was straight at Johnny Duncan. The keeper was called into action again five minutes later but this time it was a great save from a well hit drive that looked to be flying into the roof of the net.
Thistle sqandered a great chance to take the lead in the 25th minute when Mushett sent a free header past the post when anything on target would have been a goal. After that let off, the home side got the breakthrough that they deserved when they went straight back up the park and scored from a nice passing move finished by Molloy who rolled the ball into the corner unchallenged. They almost doubled the lead a minute later when their pony-tailed right winged produced a great run and shot that Duncan could only parry into the six yard box before it was scrambled clear.
The game looked to be over as a contest in 33 minutes when Mushett couldn’t get near the Lang forward on the left wing to prevent the cross and again Duncan was left helpless as Molloy tapped in from two yards. Thistle hadn’t quite given up the ghost yet and good play between Reid and Gracie on the left saw Gracie clear through with just the keeper to beat, he chose to go round the goalie but his shot from a wide angle was cleared off the line by the centre half.
The referee denied the Jags what looked to be a good shout for a penalty when Ryan Innes had his feet taken away from him just inside the edge of the box, no foul was the verdict. Thistle finished the half on top and could have pulled a goal back when Gracie headed down for Innes but he blasted just over the bar.
Half time: Cambuslang Rangers 2 Larkhall Thistle 0
Thistle came out for the second half with the same eleven on the park but that would be set to change fairly quickly.
Cambuslang were first to threaten when Mushett gave the ball straight to an opponent who shot over the bar and the Jags took the warning and rallied well. With the next goal being crucial they gave it a good go, albeit without any real end product and it was a real kick in the sore bits when Cambuslang extended their lead in the 62nd minute. Andy Brown for once missed a ball in the air and it fell perfectly for Simeon who cut back and Love tapped in from close range.
That should have been it but the substitution of Johnny McStay for Gary McStay injected fresh energy up front and the fightback began. McStay grabbed the game by the scruff of the neck and roared and bullied his team mates into shaking off the lethargy and getting stuck in. He led the charge himself when he robbed the home centre half on the right wing and dribbled towards the goal, shrugging off three defenders before laying the ball off to Innes who crashed it into the net from twelve yards.
The home nerves were in shreds minutes later. Andy Brown headed the ball clear and it went straight through the middle into the path of Gracie who took it past the keeper and was hauled down. For some reason that only the referee knows, he didn’t produce a card of either colour but did award the penalty which Mark Canning rolled into the corner as the keeper dived the other way.
With Thistle going all out for the equaliser they were caught on the break when Mushett again gave the ball away and the game should and would have been put beyond doubt but for a magnificent double block by Andy Brown who must have felt like a one man defence at times.
It was all Thistle pressure as the game went deep into injury time but a long hooked clearance sent the Lang No.12 away and although he looked a mile offside he was allowed to square it to Simeon who scored to finish the game.
Shettleston picked up their second win of the season to go above Thistle in the table and the situation is now starting to look very ominous as the Jags sit second bottom wondering where the next win is going to come from.
Full time: Cambuslang Rangers 4 Larkhall Thistle 2
*** Sorry camera out of action this week
Duncan; Forbes (Jack 81), Mushett, Brown, Reynolds; Canning; Payne, Innes, Reid (Clarke 63); G McStay (J McStay 57), Gracie. Subs: McKeever, Thomson (GK)
Scorers: Innes, Canning
Booked: Innes, Forbes, Gracie
MoM: Good performances from Duncan and Johnny McStay and pass marks for Canning, Innes and Forbes but Andy Brown did his best to hold a ragged defence together with an outstanding display.